I’m cursed to be someone who obsesses over the quality of gadgets I buy. If I’m buying a phone, there are a number of things to check off before I decide it’s a keeper. Is the screen what I expected? Are any of the buttons mushy? Do any of them make an annoying sound they shouldn’t?
The Nintendo Switch costs less than half the price of my latest smartphone, but that doesn’t mean it gets a pass on this vigorous inspection. I bought my Switch at launch and ultimately returned it; at the time, the superb The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild wasn’t enough to sell me on the console on its own. But it didn’t take long at all for the game lineup to fill out. With Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Odyssey, Rocket League, and even a passable Doom port now available, I’m feeling far better about spending $300 on one of the consoles. And like many others, I’m going into this for the sheer joy and convenience of the Switch’s portability; if I need flashy graphics, I’ve still got both an Xbox One S and PS4 at home.
But there’s a problem: the last three or four Switch consoles I’ve bought all share a small hardware defect that most people would probably never even pick up on — but it’s one I can’t unsee. At the top of the unit near the volume rocker, there’s a slight gap between the back casing and the main chassis.
Looking at it from above, it’s barely noticeable. But from an angle, it’s definitely there. And it seems to be fairly common. There are numerous Reddit threads about it and posts in Nintendo’s support forums. People have asked about DIY ways of fixing it. The severity of the gap and how pronounced / obvious it is seems to vary between units. And it’s fair to assume that many Switches that don’t have this “issue” at all. I’m pretty sure my first console didn’t. But over the past week, I’ve purchased and returned three Switch units from Best Buy and Manhattan’s Nintendo Store because they’ve all had the gap.
This is purely cosmetic. It’s a thing that has zero negative impact on the purpose of the product. The Switch warping from prolonged periods of docked gameplay might be a legitimate issue, but this isn’t on that level. And yet, my brain won’t let me just shrug it off and enjoy an amazing Mario game. I’m fine with devices I use showing signs of wear over time. But having a flaw out of the box just sets off the worst of my stubborn traits.
This sort of thing has happened on phones before. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is one example. But a gap on your phone’s screen would be far more annoying since you’d be staring at it all day. What the hell does it matter that two pieces of plastic I’ll rarely look at aren’t perfectly flush? What’s the worst that’ll happen? Some dust will get in there? Nothing a can of compressed air can’t solve.
The consistency of this little assembly quirk does make me wonder if Nintendo is willing to overlook some manufacturing imperfections during quality assurance to meet the holiday shopping rush. To the company’s credit, the Switch seemed to be in very strong supply over Black Friday weekend. But maybe some of them are being churned out a little too fast. These aren’t launch units anymore. I’d have to imagine that the stock at Nintendo’s flagship retail store is coming pretty direct from the factories. But let me just reiterate that this is all cosmetic and is unlikely to faze everyone lost in Odyssey’s fun and wonder. If you share my unfortunate inability to unsee this stuff, hadn’t noticed the gap until now, and I just brought it to your attention... I’m sorry. There are compromises that come with the Switch’s $300 price point, and nothing’s perfect.
As for me, I’ll probably just keep trying until I either find that perfectly put together Switch or am banned from making returns at Best Buy — whichever comes first.
Maybe I should’ve just glued it shut.